Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Human Rights (Tibet/China)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 20th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 2:30 pm, 20th March 2007

What recent assessment she has made of the human rights situation in (a) Tibet and (b) China; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We regularly assess the human rights situation in China and Tibet. I have invited the Foreign Affairs Committee to meet me to discuss our work on Tibet in more detail. We welcome recent progress on human rights in China, including on the death penalty. However, we retain serious concerns about a number of areas, including the non-ratification of the international covenant for civil and political rights. My first meeting with the incoming Chinese ambassador will include those issues, as well has how to take forward the UK-China human rights dialogue.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I am grateful to hear that, because the Minister knows that China, as the occupying power in Tibet, continues to show a blatant disregard for the human rights of Tibetans, not least with the recent shooting in the back of innocent refugees who were attempting to flee across the Himalayas and the detention and torture of those who survived. With the Olympic games shortly upon us in Beijing, will the Minister hold the Chinese firmly to their word and ensure that there is uninterrupted and unrestricted access by journalists to Tibet? Will he press for the early release of the Panchen Lama, who was six when he was taken prisoner and is 18 next month and is the longest-serving, youngest political prisoner in the world?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I will take all three questions. First, we are committed to working for the Panchen Lama's well-being and for access to him—we have been extremely active on that. Secondly, I take a stronger view on access during the Olympic games. We welcome the fact that access will be opened up during the Olympic games and hope that that will be a Pandora's box and that access will be maintained after the games. We had an active conversation on 5 February with the Chinese Government at a high level about the Nangpa La pass shooting, which was described to me as an "accidental incident". In May, at the European Union human rights dialogue with China, we will follow up the shooting and the ill treatment of detainees that followed it.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

Some of the worst human rights abuses in China take place against women as part of the country's coercive one-child policy. As many as 130,000 women a year undergo forcible abortions, sometime days before birth, or are compulsorily sterilised. Will the Minister look into the case of Chen Guang Cheng, a blind human rights activist who has been given a long jail sentence for the alleged crime of trying to represent some of the women in such circumstances? Will he read my early-day motion 586, which has garnered widespread support across the House, and reply to me about the issues that it raises?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I am happy not only to read the early-day motion, but to meet my hon. Friend and any of his colleagues to discuss the issue. At the human rights dialogue that we recently held with the Chinese, we raised a substantial number of individual cases that we were pursuing. I cannot remember off hand whether the case to which my hon. Friend refers was one of them, but if it was not, I assure him that I will add it to the list for the discussions that I will have with the Chinese to follow up such cases.

Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister (Childcare), Treasury

There will be concern on both sides of the House about the lack of justice in Tibet. Would it not be appropriate for the Prime Minister—whoever he might then be—to meet the Dalai Lama when he next visits Britain, which might, apparently, be next year?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I am sure that the Dalai Lama could meet the Foreign Office and have discussions about a range of issues with senior Ministers, including the Prime Minister. As it stands, I do not think that we have had such a request yet. However, if one comes in, it will be dealt with more than sympathetically.